Nikola Tesla’s Youngest Descendant, Serbian RefugeeJun 25th, 2009 | By De-Construct.net | In Croatia, Featured Articles, Weekend
Her name is Danijela Tesla, she is 18-years-old and lives in Smederevo, Serbian town near Belgrade. She is the youngest descendant of the “man who invented 20th century”, Serbian-born American immigrant Nikola Tesla.
Ever since the world’s greatest inventor — also regarded as “the greatest genius” that ever lived — closed his eyes in New York hotel on 7 January 1943, Tesla’s name and revolutionary inventions have been the subject of vicious contention between the governments, state officials and institutions, nations and corporations.
Recently, Walt Disney studio which wants to create a Tesla character for one sequence of their new animated film, had to ask Belgrade Nikola Tesla Museum — the only legal copyright owner of Tesla’s name and work — for permission. On the other hand, Croat designer Dragica Mihajlovic believes it is her God-given right to claim personal ownership of “all of Tesla’s intellectual-property rights”, an issue Tesla Museum intends to clear up.
Son of Serbian Orthodox priest Fr. Milutin Tesla and Đuka Mandić (herself a daughter of Serbian Orthodox priest, Fr. Nikola Mandić), Tesla was born on 10 July 1856 in Serbian Krajina (also known as Military Frontier — Vojna Krajina) in Austro-Hungary, today’s Croatia, which was populated with Serbian soldiers and their families by the Hapsburg Monarchy in 16th century, along the border with Ottoman Empire, as the last line of Western defense against the Turks.
Tesla, who was proud of his Serbian nationality and Orthodox heritage, said his “most exiting thought” in the struggle to achieve his ideals “on behalf of the whole of humanity,” was the fact “that it is a deed of a Serb”.
It is not surprising that Croats, who generally feel no shame over misappropriating the great inventor’s name and ethnic roots, see no contradiction in claiming Nikola Tesla as their own on the one hand and, on the other, committing monstrous genocides twice in 20th century against Tesla’s kith and kin — the Serbian population in Krajina.
The world can only thank divine providence Nikola Tesla was in United States and not in Serbian Krajina during WWII, at the time Croatia was a fascist state ruled by demented Ustasha butchers, when all of Krajina — including village Smiljan, Tesla’s birthplace — was drowned in Serbian blood, and 750,000 Serbs in Croatia were mutilated and slaughtered in Jasenovac, a complex of grisly Croat death camps.
Tesla’s Descendants were Subjected to Another Croat Pogrom of Serbs
Tesla’s descendants are a living proof of Croat hypocrisy and shamelessness, among them Danijela, who was only 5-years-old when Croat army under Franjo Tudjman launched another pogrom on Krajina Serbs, codenamed operation “Storm” (Oluja), in 1995. Without a father who passed away two years before, Danijela was forced to flee her village Raduč, where all the Teslas come from, with her mother Milka and more than 250,000 other Krajina Serbs. Their family house was dynamited and torched by the raging Croat army, but Danijela Tesla managed to reach Serbia.
“My father Dane is Nikola Tesla’s grand-grandchild — Nikola Tesla’s first cousin is the grand-grandfather of my father,” Danijela explains quietly, and only if asked.
She carries her name and heritage silently and unassumingly, along with the war scars, refugee status and life-long struggle for survival. Her mother works in Italy as a construction worker, to support herself and pay for her daughter’s education.
“She works at men’s jobs, painting, laying ceramic tiles, cementing… She was never doing that before, but she had to learn…,” Danijela said.
Although a talented artist, Danijela has decided to study economy since, as she puts it, “the life has taught me I can’t live off the love for art”.
She says she looks like her father, but the physical resemblance to her glorious ancestor is uncanny — the same gentle facial contours, same dreamy, introspective gaze, and refined, slender figure.
“My dad wrote two books. Tesla about Tesla was published in 1968, and Josip Broz Tito was among those who attended the promotion in Smiljan [in Serbian Krajina]. His second book, From Raduč to New York, was written in 1980,” Danijela said.
“I was in the seventh grade when I wrote an essay about Nikola Tesla where, in addition to all the data, I also included the family tree. It shows that my father Dane was Nikola’s grand-grandchild or, rather, that Nikola’s first cousin was my father’s grand-grandfather. My friends never realized my last name was connected to Nikola Tesla, and I never boasted about my heritage. I would only tell about it if someone asked,” Danijela told Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti.
Although the youngest, Danijela is not the last of Teslas. Her father had three brothers, all of them Tesla’s descendants from Raduč in Serbian Krajina and all presently living in Serbia — two in Belgrade and one in Leskovac.
After the Yugoslav civil war has ended, Milka Tesla submitted a request to Croat authorities for rebuilding of their destroyed family house in Raduč. When Milka and Danijela went to Zagreb to collect the necessary documents, Tesla’s kin were subjected to hostility and maltreatment, and police interrogation “like we were some criminals”. Even the Helsinki Board for Human Rights was forced to intervene in their defense — another nasty episode that speaks volumes about the Croat rights to Tesla’s name and legacy.
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